US lawmakers urge quick reversal on 'terrorist' branding of Yemen Huthis

Washington (AFP) –


Key US lawmakers on Monday urged a quick reversal of outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's branding of Yemen's Huthis as a terrorist group, saying he had worsened a humanitarian crisis.

"The designation of the Huthis as a terrorist organization is a death sentence for thousands of Yemenis", said Senator Chris Murphy, a prominent member of President-elect Biden's Democratic Party.

"It will cut off humanitarian aid, make peace talks nearly impossible and empower Iran. Biden should reverse this policy on day one," he wrote on Twitter.

Pompeo late Sunday defied warnings from humanitarian groups and announced the long-mulled move against the insurgents that will take effect January 19 -- one day before Biden is sworn in.

The rebels, who have links to Iran, control much of Yemen and have faced a bloody offensive from Saudi Arabia with millions depending on relief to survive.

"No solution in Yemen will be sustainable unless the Huthis are involved. By designating the Huthi organization as a foreign terrorist organization, the Trump administration is only pushing a political solution to the conflict further out of reach," said Representative Gregory Meeks, the Democrat who heads the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Meeks urged a "speedy reversal" but warned: "Even if the designation were to be reversed quickly by the Biden administration, the damage will be done."

Senator Todd Young, a Republican who has broken with outgoing President Donald Trump on Yemen, said that Pompeo's move "will further destabilize a war-torn country" and block aid groups from delivering vital relief.

"I look forward to working with President-elect Biden and his team to overturn this misguided decision."

Under US law, Congress has seven days to review and reject a designation of a terrorist group.

But that looks unlikely with the Senate out of session and the House of Representatives focused on removing Trump on accusations of inciting a deadly riot on January 6 that sought to stop the ceremonial certification of Biden's victory.